Despite boasting an impressive cast – including Star Trek‘s Marina Sirtis and Sherlock‘s Mark Gatiss – the pop culture comedy fails to evoke any nostalgia – ★★
There may be a reason why sci-fi rarely moves from television into the world of theatre. At its best an explosion of special effects impossible to replicate on stage, and at its worst a hyperbolic pantomime, the genre presents a particular challenge to playwrights. Dark Sublime sits comfortably in the middle, albeit sacrificing its momentum in the process.
In an arduous two hour and 40 minute debut from Michael Dennis, Sirtis plays care-free actress Marianne who’s had her stint on Emmerdale as well as the futuristic show from which the play gets its name – an 80s TV programme which 21-year-old fanboy Oli (Kwaku Mills) forces her to remember with a grating and stereotypically chatty personality. It’s a contrast which could well have provided some interesting chemistry, but when most of the dialogue and exposition occurs over a drink or two, it becomes a tedious conversation about ‘the good old days of sci-fi’. It’s more déjà vu than bittersweet recollection.
Although well-written in terms of character development, the dialogue offers little to drive the story forward. The few impressive monologues in the piece – including Doctor Who‘s Jacqueline King on unrequited love and Mills’ on what Dark Sublime means to him – are marred by a sudden and far from subtle piano score, as if the audience couldn’t tell that such scenes are emotional ones. It’s clear what Dark Sublime wants you to feel, but it goes to extreme lengths to establish it.
Intersperse a slowing plot with a disjointed flashback episode of Dark Sublime – despite some impressive lighting design and a solid cameo from Mark Gatiss – and you have a production which is far beyond ‘wibbly, wobbly, timey-wimey’.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” says Marianne of Dark Sublime. Almost three hours later and I am of the same opinion.
Dark Sublime is now playing at Trafalgar Studios until 3 August.
Production Images: Scott Rylander.
Disclaimer: I was invited to watch Dark Sublime for free in exchange for a review of the performance as a member of the press. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions stated are honest and my own.